When you’re finished running, you need to recover — you know this. Partaking in a proper recovery routine typically includes a cooldown session, stretching and re-fueling with carbs, protein and fluids — and may also include other methods like foam rolling. But you don’t have to wait until your run’s over to start recovering.
There are several techniques you can use before and during your run to set yourself up for a successful post-run recovery. Follow along, and feel better after your next run.
PERFORM A DYNAMIC WARMUP
Leave the bulk of your stretching for after your run. Before you start moving, you should … start moving. Perform low-impact, dynamic exercises like lunges, high knees, hip openers and arm circles to increase your range of motion and prep your body for what’s to come. This makes your body feel better on the run, and it can decrease soreness after your run while also reducing your chance of injury.
It may even improve your performance, which is a nice bonus. A 2014 Journal of Strength and Conditioning study showed dynamic warmups improved sprinting and jumping ability in soccer players more than static stretching. And, hey, soccer players run.
EAT AND DRINK DURING YOUR RUN
You don’t need to fuel mid-run if you’re only out jogging for 20 minutes. But if you’re going for an extended run, then you’ll need to top off those glycogen levels. In that case, the American College of Sports Medicine suggests consuming between 30–60 grams of carbs per hour when performing endurance exercises that last longer than one hour. Choose from sports drinks, gels, blocks, bars and anything else you like — just look for something with enough carbs to keep you going.
Hydration can be trickier to gauge, as it depends on temperature, exercise intensity and your personal sweat rate. Start your run hydrated, and take small sips of water throughout. If you eat enough carbs and drink enough fluids, your body won’t be as depleted after you’re finished, which makes the recovery process smoother.
TRY RUN-WALK INTERVALS
Jeff Galloway, running coach and author of “The Run Walk Run Method,” is an advocate of doing just as the book title suggests — a combination of walking and running. With intervals, your joints are subjected to less time pounding the pavement. Rather than running until you’re exhausted, those walking intervals keep you from over-exerting your muscles. All that means quicker recovery when you’re done and hopefully fewer injuries.
DON’T SKIP THE COOL DOWN
Just because you’ve hit your target mileage or time for the day doesn’t mean your workout has to come to an abrupt end. Follow up your hard runs with a light jog and follow easier runs with a 10-minute walk. Or, hop on a stationary bike and pedal for a few minutes. Doing any of the above allows your heart rate and blood pressure to gradually decrease, help flush out metabolic waste from your muscles and prevent stiffness. Finally, it’s time to stretch. Loosen and lengthen those tired muscles, and you won’t be quite so hobbled with soreness the next day.